Country houses for sale

Homes for four seasons

A house for all seasons must provide the best of both worlds, so forget a tropical bolthole where daily temperatures flatline around 30?C and think a retreat in the mountains from which you can ski during the winter and play golf, fish or boat after the spring thaw. Why are truly dual-season homes more popular than ever, and where are the best places to own one?

*Overseas properties for sale

There’s an important lifestyle element, according to Sean Collins of PURE International, for whom key destinations are the supremely four-seasonal Canada and Switzerland. ‘People like to gift weeks at their second home to friends and family, so year-round destinations provide far more f lexibility. Owners might let their parents use their ski property in Canada over the summer, for example.’

Then there’s the economics of owning something that pays for itself all year, which Andrew Langton, chairman of Aylesford International, sees becoming increasingly important. ‘Historically, people bought second homes for their own occupation, but now I think owners—however rich they are—are going to look at their assets in another light and consider renting them out. As with a yacht, it’s madness to keep a property without using it more than a few weeks a year.’

In an age of global-warming fears, many Alpine resorts have begun to claim fourseasonality, but it really requires more than a new mountain-bike track and a wellness centre to be considered a truly summer destination.

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Arguably the best four-season playground for nature lovers is Canada, a vast expanse of lakes and mountains with snow-sure winters and balmy summers. An oil-booming economy is driving the
property market in Alberta, and the acquisition of the Three Sisters Mountain Resort by East-West Partners—behind the success of luxury resorts such as Vail, Beaver Creek and Lake Tahoe—means a massive upgrade of infrastructure.

Of the Banff resort—on the edge of 2.8 million acres of untamed and protected wilderness—John Black of Robson Barnes likes to say: ‘It’s not a ski resort, but it offers top-class skiing. It’s not a golf resort, yet it offers two world-class courses on site, on top of some of the best fly-fishing in North America.’ Villages within the resort offer different types of residence, including £2 million to £6 million estate homes on a prime site overlooking the Bow River, to Timberline Lodges, which come with their own private members’ club, at
£273,135 and upwards.

Accessibility is key for four-season homes, and, at just over an hour from Calgary, this area has the edge over up-andcoming British Columbian resorts such as Revelstoke that necessitate a long drive —or two flights—until it’s possible to fly direct from the UK to Cranbrook Airport in the heart of the Rockies. Closer to home is eastern Canada, with Quebec’s world-class year-round resort of Tremblant near Montreal, but a newly area emerging area is Muskoka, a two-hour drive from Toronto.

For those who can live without downhill skiing, this traditional ‘cottage country’ for rich Torontonians offers a multitude of easily navigable lakes with year-round trails and winter sports. Lake Rosseau is a high-end resort destination attracting celebrity residents such as Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, and a fifth of the purchasers at Red Leaves—a new Marriott resort condo-hotel with a Nick Faldo-designed golf course—have been British.

Apartments, which cost £151,641– £489,851 and come with concierge services, are being sold on a leaseback basis so although usage is limited during the first four years, there are returns of 7%. A not dissimilar arrangement is on offer on Cape Breton Island, part of the far-eastern province of Nova Scotia, which is becoming increasingly popular with UK buyers for whom it’s only a five-hour flight. A rural, untouched landscape, it’s really for those who want to completely escape metropolitan life, says John Prior of Undiscovered Properties, who is marketing the Louisbourg Resort & Spa project, with prices from £215,000.

For properly mind-blowing downhill skiing, however, the Colorado resort of Breckenridge might be more suitable. Up to 50% more affordable than the more well-known resorts of Vail and Aspen, this lively yet charming former mining town has become fashionable among British skiers and snowboarders. An easy 90-minute drive from Denver airport, the high-altitude town with 300 days of sunshine a year is close to Lake Dillon, with its world-class sailing and trout fishing.

‘Our British buyers are intending to spend 6–7 weeks a year in their properties—split between the seasons— and most of them are interested in the optional rental scheme,’ says Eric Thompson of the Water House on Main Street development in downtown Breckenridge. Fifty-five high-spec 2/3-bedroom properties cost £484,929 to £992,387.

When it comes to Europe, Switzerland is hard to beat, despite tough restrictions on foreign ownership. Handy for both Milan and southern France, the area around Geneva is perfect, especially the stylish but low-key resort of Villars, where David Coulthard and Jacques Villeneuve live for part of the year. It’s the closest resort to Lake Geneva, and its exclusive ski-in/ski-out area, Domaine de La Residence, is where Russia’s former president Vladimir Putin has chosen to build a colossal chalet with a 30-vehicle car park. Properties don’t come up for sale very often, but PURE is selling the more modest four-bedroomed Chalet Axel—which comes with a foreign residency permit—for £1.85 million.


With access to 75 miles of prime piste, Villars is also close to several golf courses, and Montreux, with its lively summer jazz festival, is 30 minutes away.

Historically, Austrian resorts, being at a low-enough altitude to offer warm lakes, also rely heavily on summer tourism, and they offer fewer restrictions for foreign purchasers. Austria doesn’t have the cachet of Switzerland, but it offers greater scope for capital appreciation, says Jessica Delaney of Investors in Property. ‘British buyers think of Austria as a winter destination, but it’s an intelligent choice if you’re after year-round rentals, especially the Gastein Valley, Zell am See and Saalbach/Hinterglemm.’

Also, if you’re thinking of selling, a home that looks good all year round definitely has the edge.

*Overseas properties for sale